Gaming – The Future of Neurological Rehab?

Gaming – The Future of Neurological Rehab?

History of Virtual Reality

Over the last few decades, gaming accessibility is increasing. In 1930, the first idea for gaming was from a novel, “Pygmalion’s Spectacles”.  From 1960’s to now, virtual reality video gaming has evolved from a computer as large as a room to extremely compact virtual reality goggle headsets. Once used for military purposes, virtual reality gaming has now stepped down to be accessed by all, in commercially available products. The most popular immersive products are still priced far from the average patient’s recreational budget, at over $600. Occulus Quest is one of the most optimal products on the market right now.

There are two groupings of virtual reality interventions; immersive and non-immersive. Immersive requires a headset usually and gives complete high resolution visual input to your brain to give the perception of interacting with the virtual environment. Non-immersive often comes with a screen or projection and a console or platform for interaction, similar to Wii Fit, and Xbox.

Gaming as part of Physiotherapy treatment

The most commonly used Gaming intervention for people with neurological disorders is Wii Fit. It has previously been used in people with Stroke, Parkinsons and Acquired Brain Injury (Goble, Cone & Fing, 2014). However, there are some limitations to these games. Their parameters are often set at less than what is practical for a patient with high falls risk or low mobility. The age-related norms found on the games are tailored towards a general population. Those who would most benefit from gaming interventions and engage with them may be outside of these limits; due to increased weight, reduced balance and mobility and reduced muscle strength, that limits them from participating in outdoor activities.

What is coming up?

Having recently attended the Swinburne University’s synopsium on Virtual Reality developments in the health setting, I am please to share that there are some exciting developments in store! Some games in the trial phase focus on improving movement in the spine for people with chronic lower back pain (Swinburne, 2019). These can also be used by patients who have strength- or fatigue- related movement limitations. Other games in trial look at walking on different perceived terrains, such as gravel and water and the effect this has on gait. This may help clients train in a virtual environment with less risks compared to the physical environment.

Tisara Pathiranage

References:

Goble, D. J., Cone, B. L., & Fling, B. W. (2014). Using the Wii Fit as a tool for balance assessment and neurorehabilitation: the first half decade of “Wii-search”. Journal of neuroengineering and rehabilitation, 11(1), 12.

Swinburne. (2010). Swinburne and Medibank examine how virtual reality can treat chronic pain. Retrieved from: http://www.swinburne.edu.au/news/latest-news/2019/03/swinburne-and-medibank-examine-how-virtual-reality-can-treat-chronic-pain.php

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